Monday, April 27, 2009

Rogue Chocolatier

He's 24, doesn't have a driver's license and considers himself a bit of a rogue. As in, "operating outside normal controls" - not a thief. Meet Colin Gasko, a true bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer based in Minneapolis. He doesn't do what is normal and easy in the chocolate world, such as buying couverture, re-melting it and adding bizarre ingredients. Without the funds to purchase expensive European chocolate making equipment, he buys what he can, tinkers with it and improvises. And when it comes time to delivering these bars, he'll jump on his bicycle if he can't hitch a ride. Normal, no, but this process results in some very fine chocolate.

Gasko got his start while working at Whole Foods and realizing he could make chocolate just as good as what they sold. Like many new American chocolate makers, he took to the library to read up on the physics of chocolate production. (No joke -this happens!) Despite the new wave of small batch chocolate makers in America, we've heard it's still a very difficult craft to learn. If you just call up Guittard or Ghirardelli, will they show you their tempering machine? Not likely. That was the impetus behind several of these guys (and it really is all guys) starting the Craft Chocolate Makers of America. No word yet on whether Rogue Chocolatier will be invited to the club.

We picked up our Rogue bars at Fog City News on a recent Chocolate Tour. Gasko has three 70% cacao bars currently for sale in San Francisco: the Sambirano (Madagascar), the Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) and the Rio Caribe (Venezuala). Since these are all single origin, I wish he included a little more information on the packaging about the beans and plantations he uses. But I applaud his no-nonsense tasting notes, where he has assigned each bar 3 simple flavors. My favorite was the Rio Caribe, with notes of coffee, blood orange and nuts. The bars retail for $6.99 and make a very pretty gift set for chocolate connoisseurs.

It takes Gasko 30 hours to make one batch of chocolate, and an additional 15 to mold and package that batch. One might imagine a business consultant suggesting he make larger batches or at least hire a "man in India" to help with the wrapping. That might be normal but we are, after all, talking about a rogue. Let us know what you think about these bars by leaving a comment here or sending us an email at

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